24 March 2013

Stone Curlew again!

After the bird in 2011, nobody really thought we could get another one. But we could, and we did! Bitterly cold out on the Flats, but a number of us struggled on regardless and reaped the rewards. Sometimes you can't beat a bit of patch birding - long may the cruddy weather last!

Today's highlights
Stone Curlew
5-6 Snipe
Drake Tuftie x Pochard
2 Golden Plover
50+ Lapwing

19 March 2013

Friday and Monday's TWATs

I am depressed.

Depressed at missing all the (few) birds that have come our way (today Woodlark, last week: Curlew-- not one, nine of the buggers;  Shelduck; Short-eared Owl, Rook - 2 of them lifers for the patch!).

Depressed at the weather.

Depressed because yesterday was Monday.

Since I've been unable to catch up with any birds, I've resorted to counting dog-walkers who can't read, or who are too self-serving, selfish and sooooo far up their dog's arses they can't see or care about little endangered song birds. And that's depressing too.

Talking to them, to point out the error of their ways, even more depressing.

Humanity = depressing.

Then Jono and I did a good thing. When I met up with him at the Stonechat twitch, he was on his knees in the grass. He'd found a bag and was collecting the discarded contents. We managed to piece together the whereabouts of the mugger's victim and I returned the bag to her neighbours.  It made me feel better and Jono is quickly moving towards sainthood (what with re-uniting dead dogs with former owners). Seeing the year's first Stonechat also helped.

On the way home Steve and I admonished a woman with about a hundred dogs, all out of control and in the protected zone, she apologised, not realising why she was not meant to be walking unleashed dogs.  She'd seen the signs and obviously not quite put 2 and 2 together. A guy I'd spoken to the other day said he thought the signs were just for one bit of the flats, the bit that he'd just walked through with his dog running around miles away from him.

You couldn't make it up. Dog owners are so used to being able to see any patch of land as theirs by dint of having a dog, say a National Nature reserve, that they can't understand why they should not be allowed to carry on as usual.  No matter what. They find it just too hard to grasp that their pooch could be anything but an improvement to the natural world.

Some of them are self-professed nature lovers, blissfully unaware of the environmental disaster that having a pet is.  Last year £2.7bn was spent on pets in the UK alone (over £30bn in the US). It's a vast and growing industry so unsurprisingly the government is loath to countenance legislation in any beneficial or meaningful way.  Most pet owners said they would rather go without rather than reduce their spending on the mutt, the moggy or what other crutch they have lurking at home. So given the choice they would rather their pet have the meat and soya/wheat based biscuits and treats than a healthy bio-diversity.  But they don't see it as a choice because they are blissfully unaware of anything beyond emptying the dog on the flats, ignorant that the dog population of this country has a bigger carbon footprint than the car industry, or of the forest destroyed to feed their charges, or that the huge amount of nitrogen waste being dumped, literally, out of their dog's arses is changing the very nature of land they are now walking over.

We will lose Skylark as a breeding bird here in the future.  In the very near future if these people have their way, while the Corporation fiddles, ineffectually, on the side lines.  And some of them will say why did no one do anything about it while there was time. As is the human way.

Just don't get me started on cats.

I could have filled the memory card already.

9 March 2013

Curlew Jam

I've been on Wanstead Flats precisely eight times this year. This is beyond pathetic. I've been to the Park five times. Terrible. I've also had a quick wander around Bush Wood a couple of times in order to pick up Firecrest etc. What am I trying to say?

How about this? That I am a jammy so-and-so. Yes, that's it. Patch jam. OK, so my patch year-list is pretty meagre on 72, but there are some glorious moments in there. Waxwing on the school run and at the end of my road on the way to work, Short-eared Owl whilst on the phone, and today a couple of Curlew - a full fat patch tick, and the first since the early 1970s. Get. In.

I was awoken by a text at around half seven this morning. Dan had had seven Curlew over Bush Wood. Nooooooo!! Too late again, I rolled over. Then another text, this time from Dan himself. 30 Lapwing coming my way. I resolved to get out of bed. The moment I hit the patch 80 Lapwing flew over my head. Hmmm, possibly a good morning coming up?

It was. Whilst chewing the fat with Dan at the vizmig point another two Curlew flew over. I sent some joyous texts that were well-received. Get in! I've been waiting eight years for these, happy days. I didn't have a camera, but here are some Teal from the Park - Shoulder of Mutton, where the Water Rail was also present. Bring on tomorrow.

7 March 2013

February flatters to decieve

A frankly disappointing February is over so now for the good stuff!

Highlights of the month

  • Firecrest feature in Bush Wood
  • Water Rail at last
  • Goldeneye patch gold
  • Jono multi-tasks: scoring Short-eared Owl while on a conference call with the US
  • Tony snaps a Yellowhammer
  • Waxwing sightings on the up
  • Gadwall numbers reach record high
  • Golden Plover calling over the SSSI
  • Knot added to my burgeoning  " ... if only I'd being paying a bit more attention!" list of misseds
  • Report of male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker calling yet to be substantiated
The little freeze was a disappointment.  We didn't even have time to think about putting apples up before it was over.  Just a sprinkling of Lapwing, a couple of large flocks of Fieldfare and a calling golden Plover and it was over.

Dan got the find of the month with another 4 Goldeneye to add to the 2 he found in the Autumn.  This lot stayed the day and looked set for the night, but instead set off in the night.

Mr Brown got a nice picture of a one day Yellowhammer that was consorting with Reed Bunting near the Esso Garage, the Larks began to sing and on a few days you could be mistaken to think that Spring had sprung.  Not a lot to say as I am off to bed now for an early start to hunt for Wheatear.

1st February

Wanstead Flats: Short-eared Owl NW over flats (J Lethbridge).

4th February

Wanstead Flats: Siskin, 9 Pochard, 20 + Tufted Duck, 10 + Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Kestrel, 70 + Gadwall, 2 f Shoveler, 10 + Pochard (Nick Croft)

5th February

Wanstead Flats: Chiffchaff Cat & Dog pond (Steve Thorpe)

6th February

Wanstead Flats: Kestrel (Steve Thorpe), Common Snipe, 7 Shoveler, 7 Pochard, 13 Gadwall,15+ Tufted Duck, 4 Meadow Pipit, 4 Stock Dove (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 100+ Gadwall, 9 Shoveler, m Teal, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe)

7th February

Wanstead Flats: 20 Fieldfare, 5 Meadow Pipit and one with distinctly aberrant behaviour which has been around for about a week on its own in the boggy part of the SSSI - no calls and skulking, Siskin, 2 Stock Dove, 5 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, 3 Pochard (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: c100 Gadwall, 5 Pochard, 3 Teal, Little Grebe, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

8th February

Wanstead Flats: 2 Snipe, 8 Meadow Pipit (mystery solved), 2 Pied Wagtail,  2 Skylark, 2 Reed Bunting, Siskin, 20 Fieldfare, Sparrowhawk, 2 Gadwall, 10 Tufted Duck (Nick Croft/Tim Harris/Bob Vaughan).

Wanstead Park: 100+ Gadwall, 60+ Tufted Duck, 2 Teal, 6 Pochard, Little Grebe, Siskin, Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest (Nick Croft).

10th February

Wanstead Park: 258 Gadwall (a site record), plus 15 Shoveler, 16 Pochard, 83 Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe (Tim Harris).

11th February

Wanstead Flats: 20 Waxwing on Lake House Road flew towards Bush Wood (JL), Golden Plover (h) west over north end of SSSI (NC), Yellowhammer with 2 Reed Bunting nr Esso Copse (TB), 6 Fieldfare, 16 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, 10 Shoveler, 20 + Gadwall, 6 Pochard, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge/Tony Brown)

Wanstead Park: 104 Fieldfare south through Old Sewage Works, 20 Redwing by stables, 3 Goldcrest, Gadwall (yesterday a record count of 260 birds during WEBs count), 10 Pochard, Bullfinch, 4 Siskin (Nick Croft)

12th February

Wanstead Flats: f Teal, 9 Shoveler, 7 Pochard, 7 Gadwall, Little Grebe, 3 Fieldfare, 20 Meadow Pipit, 2 m Reed Bunting (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 150+ Gadwall, 10+ Pochard, 2 Shoveler, m Teal, 6+ Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Redwing (Nick Croft)

13th February

Wanstead Flats: 140 Fieldfare, 4 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 10 Gadwall, 20 Tufted Duck, 4 Teal north,  Kestrel, 15 Meadow Pipit (Cat & Dog Pond), 3 Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 143 Gadwall, 9 Pochard, 60 + Tufted Duck, m Teal, Stock Dove, Grey Wagtail, Siskin (Nick Croft)

14th February

Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe, Reed Bunting in SSSI (Tim Harris).

15th February

Wanstead Flats: 4 Skylark (2 singing), 7 Meadow Pipit, 18 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Firecrest (Bush Wood), 15 + Goldcrest, singing Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk, Nuthatch, 190 Gadwall, 13 Shoveler, 3 Teal, 5 singing Stock Dove, Skylark north over Bush Wood (Nick Croft)

20th February

Wanstead Flats: Kestrel, Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 4 Goldeneye (3m/1f) present all day seen slumbering on Perch at 17:00 (Dan Hennessy), 50+ Gadwall, 4 Pochard, 60+ Tufted Duck, singing Coal Tit, 6 Goldcrest, 1-2 Firecrest (Bush Wood - DH/NC/Alan Hobson), Reed Bunting, Little Egret, displaying Great Crested Grebe (The Basin - Steve Thorpe), Lesser Redpoll, Siskin (NC/Bob Vaughan), pr Bullfinch Old Sewage Works (Nick Croft)

21st February

Wanstead Flats: possible Knot caning it west down Aldersbrook Rd 09:00, 10 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 25 Tufted Duck, 2 Egyptian Goose, 6 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, Reed Bunting, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 9 Waxwing Wanstead Park Avenue (Tim Harris), Firecrest Bush Wood (Barry Bishop), c. 50 Gadwall, 10 Pochard, pr of Teal, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

23rd February

Wanstead Park: 100+ Gadwall, 24 Shoveler, 1 Common Teal, 15 Pochard, 28 Fieldfare, 20 Redwing, Firecrest (Bush Wood), Nuthatch (Reservoir Wood), 20+ Siskin (TH and ELBF team)

24th February

Wanstead Park: male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling 50yds from Warren Rd entrance (Geoff Harding). Bush Wood - at least 1 Firecrest still (David Bradnum)

25th February

Wanstead Flats: 14 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 6 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, 6 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, Pochard, 2 Reed Bunting, 30 + Goldfinch in SSSI, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 10 Siskin, 2 Pochard, 50 + Gadwall (Nick Croft)

26th February

Wanstead Flats: 3 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Skylark, 2 Shoveler, 6 Tufted Duck, 2 Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 70+ Gadwall, 30+ Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard, Siskin (Nick Croft). Pair of Tawny Owls calling in Bush Wood at 19:30 (Tim Harris).

27th February

Wanstead Flats: 3 Linnet, 4 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 4-7 Skylark, Kestrel, 5 Fieldfare, Redwing, 2 Stock Dove, 5 Pochard, 10 Tufted Duck (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Siskin, 60 + Gadwall, 2 Great Black-backed Gull east over plain with Herring Gull in tow (Nick Croft)

5 March 2013

Just, ever so slighty, off patch

I've been staking out a few likely berry bushes all winter, only to see them be robbed of their fruit by the local Blackbird, Mistle Thrush and Wood Pigeon with the odd Fieldfare thrown in, and not a sniff of a Waxy.  My last hope was the cotoneaster tree by Durning Hall, still full of berries even after the unwanted attention of the local Wood Pigs.

Monday's birds above

Finally it happened.  Yesterday as I strove to get out on to the patch earlier than usual I heard the trilling.  Couldn't actually place where it was coming from, but after a while I noticed the tree across the road from Durning Hall was festooned with trilling Waxoes.  Heaven!  I managed to rattle off 350 + shots, but because the sun had not yet risen, they are all virtually crap.  I spent an hour sorting through the darkened dross last night in an effort to salvage something from it with a view to posting on The Twites today.  But what do I see when I sleepily open up the site this morning.  A rare post from Mr Fisher with Waxwing, and really not bad shots. Crap!

The birds weren't there as I passed this morning, but on my way back from a pretty quiet morning on the flats and in the park, there they were, at least some of them.  Not the 48 of yesterday, but about half, and the light was good.  Just the sodding twigs to contend with. And although slightly off the patch, by about a quarter of a mile, I give you a bit of Scandinavian beauty.  Phwoar!

Even Mr Brown was tempted by their loveliness, while most of the inhabitants of Forest Gate wandered around unaware of the stars in their midst. Twats!

Normal service to be resumed....